died when a fire of undetermined origin ravaged her Garrard Street home
in the early morning hours of March 11. Her visitation is Wednesday
from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Robbins Street Christian Church. A funeral
"We're asking for the City of Covington to be
able to hire more fire department members in the Scott Street station,"
said Bennie Doggett, president of the Eastside Neighborhood Association.
Covington cut the number of firefighters on duty during a
24-hour period from 30 to 27 in September of 2011. That meant browning
out Pumper #1, which is housed at the central firehouse at the corner of
Robbins and Scott Streets.
That's the firehouse closest to the
Garrard Street scene with Ladder Truck #1, Heavy Rescue #1, Ambulance
#1 and a Battalion Commander.
"At 30 we were bare bones
minimum," said Covington Firefighters Union Local #38 President Chris
Black. "Right now, we are at dangerous staffing levels."
However, Black wouldn't speculate what might have happened if Pumper #1 weren't browned out.
can't say for certain that Engine #1 being in service would have saved
Miss Herron's life," he said. "What I can tell you is the first-in
engine was one minute behind the first-in companies and the U.S. Fire
Protection Administration has done studies that show fire doubles in
size every minute."
Herron called 911 herself the morning of March 11 and uttered the words "help me" to a dispatcher before the line went dead.
no fire was initially reported, Covington police were notified to
respond. Officers reportedly saw heavy smoke billowing from the house as
"The initial call was that police officers
were on scene unable to gain access to the structure due to the intense
flames and smoke," said Covington Fire Chief Dan Mathew.
were quickly summoned and Chief Mathew said the first crews dispatched
from the Robbins and Scott Street station were on the scene in four
minutes and six seconds.
"Truck One and Car Two reported
initially that there was heavy fire coming from the front of the
structure," Chief Mathew said. "The front of the structure was fully
involved in fire."
Pumper #6 arrived 28 seconds later from its
firehouse on on Holman Avenue in Peaselburg. Pumper #8 was on the scene
after that, after making the two-mile trip from Church Street in
"As far as what my crews did that morning, they
responded professionally, did exactly what they were supposed to do and
unfortunately the outcome was a loss of life," the chief said.
five pumpers each carry a three person crew -- a lieutenant,
firefighter and engineer -- and about 500 gallons of water. That's
enough to last about four to five minutes while hoses are hooked to
hydrants for a steadier supply.
Would having that sixth pumper in service make a difference for public safety?
Chief Mathew said that's not necessarily the case.
could have 100 firefighters on a day and you can't prove that it's any
safer than having 27 on a day," he said. "The more equipment we have on
the shorter our response times might be, but again there's no proof
positive that more people equals safer or better conditions for the
Covington's fire department made 11,800 runs in 2012
with 9,600 of them -- 80 percent -- for emergency medical services.
Fire calls only accounted for 20 percent of that total.
Consequently, Chief Mathew said that makes EMS runs a statistical priority.
"We have to respond to the emergencies at hand," he said. "It's kind of a first come, first serve business."
claims the city violated the working agreement with firefighters when
staffing was cut and a unfair labor practice was filed with the Kentucky
However, Covington City Solicitor Frank Warnock
said the case was decided in favor of the city. He added a last, best
and final offer on staffing was made to the union, but it was turned
The union sought a temporary injunction in Kenton Circuit
to force the city to keep daily staffing at 27, but that wasn't
Warnock said negotiations continue with the union's executive board.
the city's obligation now to make a decision if they want to put our
staffing at a level where it should be and make all these legal issues
go away," Black said. "Or, the could continue the legal action further
and continue to risk lives of the citizens."
Doggett and other
members of the Eastside Neighborhood Association have already packed one
meeting of the Covington City Commission to have their viewpoints
They were told the city does not have the money to hire
more firefighters. So, they plan to do the same thing for the 6 p.m.
meeting on Tuesday, March 26.
now that we want that to happen from a neighborhood perspective because
we lost someone that was really dear to us," said Doggett.
City Manager Larry Klein says adding more firefighters to the department isn't feasibly possible right now.
do believe we are on a five year sustainable financial plan right now
and that plan has enabled the city to reach financial stability along
with other changes in the past year," said Klein. "To add that expense
now, we would have to find that money somewhere else or cut something
Chief Mathew said he was sympathetic to Doggett's effort.
we can't schedule our fires. We can't schedule our EMS runs," he said.
"They just happen when they happen and we have to deal with them as best